Take the interstate exit and follow the pavement to the rural route. Go past the fields of autumnal cotton, past the lopsided trailer homes sitting in fields of blond stubble, past the abandoned filling station, and soon you will find the little town.
You’ll see the hi-welcome-to-our-city-sign, covered with smatterings of tin badges for the Lion’s Club, Kiwanis, Rotary, and the all-you-can-eat catfish joint. You’ll see the feed and seed, the vacant downtown storefronts Walmart killed, and finally you’ll see the little white dog trot house.
Well, at least it used to be white. Today it’s more mildew colored.
In the overgrown yard are the remains of ancient outdoor Playskool toys that predate the Carter administration, and the bones of a rusted swing set that went to be with Jesus a long time ago.
Elderly Martha was standing on her porch waiting for me when I pulled up. Martha is not her real name, but it will have to do.
She speaks with an accent that’s thicker than pancake batter. She raised her family here.
She retired here.
“I used to work at mill,” she told me. “I was the nurse lady who bandaged people who got hurt.”
She poured two mugs of coffee. Weak coffee. The brew was the color of iced tea. It was the kind of coffee many old-timers often drink. I once asked an elderly guy why old people made their coffee so weak. The returning answer was: “So we can drink it all day long.”
The woman sat at her kitchen table, staring into her mug of brown water, and told the inexperienced writer across from her the story that brought him here.
Her story took place in the winter. She remembers it vividly. The tree branches were naked, the sun was setting. She was leaving the mill after a very long workday.
“My mama lived with us at the time,” she said.…